Memphis Catholic Schools supt. reacts to The Covenant School shooting

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The shock from Monday’s fatal school shooting in Nashville has spread down I-40 to Memphis, and families are wanting to know what is being done in their respective school districts to prevent active shooter situations.

“For us to have these discussions... it’s very distressful,” said Pierre Antoine, superintendent for the Catholic Schools of the Memphis Diocese.

Antoine works with 15 private, Catholic schools across the Memphis Diocese, which extends to Jackson, Tenn.

He says during school shootings - especially ones that are as close to home as Nashville - communication with parents is paramount.

“At Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Midtown, our principal... she sent a message to parents (Tuesday morning), not only reassuring them about safety protocols, but she also spoke to what they are,” said Antoine.

Some of those precautions include locking school doors to outsiders and not unlocking them until the conclusion of the school day.

The Catholic School network works with private security companies, some even having in-house security teams.

Antoine made note that regardless of how much preparation is taken, it’s sometimes not enough.

This was made tragically clear at The Covenant Presbyterian School, where six people were killed.

“(The shooter) shot their way in. The school had done everything properly. And yet, they were bent upon what, I’ll call it, ‘terrorism,’” said Antoine.

Outreach from Catholic school parents has reached Antoine’s office, and he says he wants parents to know that he hears them and their concerns.

Some schools within the diocese have sent faculty and staff to active shooter trainings with law enforcement.

“We are not just standing with the status quo,” said Antoine. “What we want to do is make sure we are being proactive. For parents, it’s difficult because they want action. It’s an emotional time, and I certainly understand that. At the same time, I think what we’re doing right now is safe.”

Another private school in Memphis, Briarcrest, sent this message, in part, out to parents following the shooting at The Covenant School:

BCS, in the note to parents, listed the security precautions they have in place to ensure school safety, such as armed guards, perimeter fencing, and training/campus walk-throughs from law enforcement.

For addressing concerns about mental health, Antoine noted how every Memphis Catholic school has on-site counselors for mental health evaluations in helping deal with the trauma that comes with tragedy happening so close to home.

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